New Festspace paper on staging events in urban public spaces
The Festspace research team have published a new paper in the International Journal of Events and Festival Management which helps to provide a conceptual basis for their work on festivals, events and public spaces. Andrew Smith and Goran Vodicka from the London based team took the lead on this paper, which was inspired by their interests in architecture and urban design. The work brings together ideas from urban design literatures about designing and activating public spaces with texts produced by event scholars on festivalisation and eventscapes.
Reflecting the scope of the #Festspace project, the paper draws upon a range of significant examples from across Europe. The paper provides a useful review of the relationship between events and urban public spaces, but it also offers two original dimensions.
First, a new typology of event spaces is developed. Different ways that events occupy public spaces are identified and categorised according to whether they are paid entry, sometimes free, or free to access; and the levels of audience mobility (static, limited mobility, mobile). The nine types of event spaces produced are illustrated in a simple diagram (see below) which we hope will be useful to events researchers. This conceptualisation helps to summarise the range of events staged in urban public spaces, but it also indicates some of the spatial dynamics associated with hosting them.
The second original contribution is the consideration of the range and value of design interventions that can help public spaces host events more efficiently. Our paper explores whether designing events into public spaces might help alleviate some of the noted issues with staging events in urban parks and squares. Different ways that events have been incorporated into public space design are reviewed, from a new breed of hybrid public space which can easily transition between event and everyday modes, to more subtle interventions in existing spaces such as the provision of power points, water supply and on site storage. These allow events to be staged without having to bring in temporary provision for each occasion.
The paper concludes that, in some instances, it makes sense to adapt public space designs to incorporate event functions. However, the work also notes that these interventions do not necessarily resolve the issues associated with using public spaces as event venues. The paper also warns against design interventions that mean events become an overly determined and, thus, prevailing feature. This restricts the flexibility, spontaneity and looseness that tend to characterise successful public spaces.
We hope the paper makes a useful addition to the growing literature on urban events and we hope to explore and apply some of the ideas in our subsequent work.
You can access the paper here: